We have all had those days…when a bite of food can take you back and sometimes a far off. Here’s my flight of memories from today.
I am intrigued by all the international restaurants in our city. When a new one opens, it’s always appealing to try it, at least once. Bosna Market & Deli has been open a few months, and finally our son, Daniel, and I pulled in to check it out for lunch.
We loved it right from the front door. A sign was posted on the door different than any restaurant sign I had ever seen:
Right there we wanted to be customers.
This being our first time, the sole attendant (may have been the owner; wish now I had asked) helped us make our selection. We chose a cheese burek and a spinach burek.
The cheese burek took me back to our sweet years in Cairo, Egypt. It reminded me so much of the filo pastry filled with cheese (or meat and cheese). There it is called goulash (picture below).Photo Credit: Pinterest
As I ate that Bosnian savory, my mind linked this experience with a taxi ride in Cairo, years ago. It was during a time that the US had made some unpopular political decisions in the Middle East, and being American could lead to lots of awkward conversations. We still felt very safe but having learned Arabic we were often drawn into conversations where we were asked to explain our government’s decisions…as if we could.
In that taxi, that day, riding with two young Egyptian friends, the taxi driver launched into conversation with them first, and then, when he saw I was understanding, he included me. World politics rose to the top of the conversation, and, seeing I was very definitely foreign, he asked where I was from.
Before I could answer, one of my friends whispered to me in English, “Tell him you’re from Bosnia!” What?! I knew he was very animated and didn’t like America so much right then…but why Bosnia? She answered for me. Later, they told me that everyone was sympathetic toward Bosnia because of the war and that I wouldn’t have to talk about America to an unsympathetic Egyptian man.
Other than seeing news reports on TV and online, that was my first occasion to confront what it was like for the Bosnians. It was the first time I even thought about them, to be honest, I am ashamed to say. The war was over by then, and it was confusing what really happened [I have since read much more about it].
Using the Bosnian nationality was to give me a break from being judged as the rich American that day…how strange was that?!
Then a few years later, when we were living in Casablanca, Morocco, I had the great blessing of meeting and becoming friends with this captivating Bosnian woman. She and her husband immigrated to Morocco after the war. We met through an international English class which I facilitated. All us women had so much fun together, swapping stories in English, Arabic, and French sometimes.
Our Bosnian friend also had fun stories…but when the conversation turned to her experiences of the war, we listened quietly…to unbelievable acts of hatred from one people toward another. The Bosnian Muslims were victims of a severe ethnic cleansing, and the losses they experienced were beyond imagination.
[Sidebar – enjoying the Bosnian lunch back home with my memories stirred, I wanted to refresh my memory of the war, so read online awhile about those terrible atrocities…and the stories of kindness from strangers.]
Mallory Merda wrote a series of articles on a Bosnian family for The Sentinel, the local newspaper of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After the war, Bosnian refugees settled in Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea. Some however came all the way to the US. One couple, Semsa & Zehrid Alic, with two small boys, settled many years ago in Carlisle.
You can read some of their story in Merda’s articles (link below)…the accounts are fascinating and thought-provoking. The Alic boys are now young men, and the family is American. There is still the horror of war in their memory…and the cost of it lingers. There stories are like so many others – people displaced from their countries, their families, the lives they had before. How glad I am that they had sponsors in the US, just regular people like you and me, who helped them, loved them toward a new life here…a different life and a new beginning.Photo Credit: The Sentinel
So this is how my mind works…distractable at best. Where it takes me in a day is sometimes where this blog goes.
If you have a Bosnian restaurant near you, you are in for a treat. Our food today was magnificent, and we will be back. I am hoping the next time to hear something of that Bosnian family who own the restaurant, here in Richmond, and of their journey to this hopefully peaceful place.
As we enjoyed their savory “made fresh every morning” food, I hoped they have experienced love from their neighbors here. I also hope they know that, now that we know what happened, we won’t forget either.
Photo Credit: Alan Grant